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An Anti-Productivity Announcement

This episode is an anti-productivity announcement.

Yep, you heard me. This episode is less about doing and more about being.

The AfroEducator Podcast Episode 39: An Anti-Productivity Announcement

Many of you, like me, would identify as being "Type-A" and we thrive when we feel like we’re getting shit done. There’s nothing quite like crossing items off your to-do list. Heck, even when I’m overwhelmed and stressed, my go-to strategy to quiet my mind is to get it all out…you guessed it…in a list.

Lists just make you feel like you’ve got it under control like it’s all somehow more manageable when it’s itemized on a notepad.

Now, let me be clear - this message is NOT anti-list, and in general, I do believe productivity is important, but I do think there’s a time and place to choose something different. I wanted to talk about this topic because I think in this current hustle culture where productivity is the standard, I don’t see a lot of influencers embracing or promoting stillness. Instead, we are inundated with how to buy more, make more, and do more. Granted, I will always support securing your bag and handling your business, but what if the key to that is learning when to stop doing, and just BE for a little while?

In Episode 26, I talked about showing up for REAL life and how important it is for us to be intentional about the way we use social media. It’s beautiful that we have so many avenues to document the moments of our lives, but we can’t let fast media consume our attention. We want to prioritize what matters most, whether that’s family, relationships, or business.

I understand, though, that it can be a struggle. Especially if you’re a nano-influencer, trying to figure out growing your business and how you want to use social media to your advantage to do so.

That struggle is very real and I feel like it’s a cycle that I endure at least once a year. Typically what happens is, I look up one day and realize that I haven’t posted in a while. Then, I realize that the algorithm will probably punish me for being absent for so long. And in a frenzy, I scroll through my gallery hoping to find something that I can transform into some quick, semi-meaningful content that I can share within my peak engagement time frames. It all ends in frustration when I realize I haven’t taken any new photos nor do I have anything particularly profound to say. I hope for better luck tomorrow, only to find myself repeating the frenzy of the previous day.

Eventually, I realize that I’m…just not feeling it. My creativity or my energy is waning and rather than try to continue to fight it, maybe I should just give in. After all, aren’t creative ruts part of the process? I ultimately do give in and just trust that the creative tide will come rushing back and I’ll be inspired to share meaningful relevant content again.

And you know what? That’s exactly what happens. Every. Single. Time.

But you know what? I’ll also admit that every single time, there’s also fear that by leaning into the process and not producing, I’ll bottom out. I worry that my choice to be still means that I won’t move forward. In the example about my creative process, I always worry that if I don’t keep posting, if I don’t keep creating, I’ll miss opportunities.

I’m afraid of stagnation. Not just personally, but professionally too. I’ve been growth-obsessed since I was a pre-teen. I was always that girl in the self-help section looking at the books that would help me understand more about my changing body and brain. I’m all about optimization…and squeezing as much goodness from an opportunity as possible. That usually means that I have this urge to constantly feel like I’m doing.

I think a lot of us, especially in the U.S., feel like productivity is the answer to everything. We are constantly on a hamster wheel. In fact, I’d argue that most of us lead lives that are equivalent to moving from one hamster wheel to another.

There’s the hamster wheel of work...

The hamster wheel of creating your dream life...

The hamster wheel of being a partner...

The hamster wheel of being a parent or caregiver...

The hamster wheel of just figuring it all out...

We feel like need to DO MORE because we equate productivity with progress. And I’m learning that this idea isn’t necessarily true.

Sometimes our movement, even with the best intention, zaps our energy or creativity, or even willpower because it’s not focused. While I don’t believe that you always have to have a specific direction, I do know that our energy is a finite resource, and if we truly want to make the most of our lives, it’s important that we are intentional about how, where, and with whom we are devoting that energy.

Some of you might be thinking, but wait, won’t I have to expend energy in order for me to be more intentional about it? Maybe it even feels like more work….just another hamster wheel for me to run, run, run, and get nowhere. I get it. It feels like another ‘to do.”

But here’s the thing, what if you made room for stillness as part of the process?

What if, instead of doing more, you embraced stillness as a journey of listening, learning, and expanding?

What if you allowed stillness to challenge your ideas about productivity and worth?

So many of us believe that stillness is stagnation. In a culture where productivity equals worth, we get trapped in this cycle which is only affirmed when our 'actions' are recognized. We all want to feel valued and valuable, we subscribe to a narrative that sometimes harms more than it helps. In doing so, we miss opportunities for clarity and the potential for even greater growth because we are working through stillness rather than working in it.

There are several episodes where I talk at length about some of the unexpected challenges I’ve faced after leaving the classroom. None of these are directly about the work that I’m doing but were more personal struggles that left me in a creative dry spell. If you want the full details, I encourage you to go back and listen to Episode 12 and Episode 25. But the short version is that I’ve wrestled to redefine who I am and what I want because my identity had become so wrapped in teaching. I’m unclear about what I want moving forward and how it is that I want to show up in the world.

My new position is serving me well, but the truth is that it’s not a forever position and it wasn’t meant to be. But it has prompted me to think about what direction I’d like for my career to go in and what I want overall for my life. While I feel mostly confident about who I am and the strengths I bring to any space, I’m completely hazy when it comes to knowing what’s next. I’ve made lists, listened to podcasts, talked to friends and family members, and for a while I kept trying to find new ways to do something…anything…that would make me feel like I was making progress on the path to figuring out my next step.

And just like the story about my creative flow, I found myself in a similar cycle. So, once I recognized that doing more wasn’t getting better results, I decided to lean into the uncertainty - to accept that maybe it’s a necessary part of my journey.

I’ll be the first to tell you, it doesn’t feel great. Every day is a struggle. Anytime I see a 30-something achieve a major milestone, I think “WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE? LOOK AT SO AND SO…I’VE GOT TO GET MY ISH TOGETHER!" It’s like I desperately want to make the most of my time on the planet and so embracing stillness feels like I’m priming myself to be stagnant. But then I think about my creative process and the confidence I’ve developed in the idea that it will come back around if I just accept the ebb and flow as part of the process. I have faith that clarity, purpose, and passion will show up just when they need to if I allow myself to lean into the discomfort and I stop trying to pursue quick fixes. The thing about choosing being over doing is that there’s no list of tasks you’re beholden to. Choosing stillness means choosing to believe that what’s meant for you will never pass you by, even if you can’t dedicate the ideal amount of time or energy, or resources right now. It’s having faith that inspiration, passion, clarity, or creativity will come both when you least expect it and at the perfect moment in your journey.

Choosing stillness means putting the to-do list aside and allowing yourself, even if only for a short time, to measure your value and your worth by something other than your output.

Because while, yes a level of productivity is necessary for all of us, it’s important for us to remember that what we do is only a sliver of the story of who we are.

We are so much more than hamsters on wheels, and sometimes doing less means greater capacity to be more. More creative. More joyful. More loving. More clear. More passionate. More present.

So, if you’re like me and you find yourself in a cycle of struggle, maybe it’s time to be still. Your body, mind, and soul might just thank you.

Until next time, be kind, be still, and take care.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode


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